December 12, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
SHUSWAP LAKE, B.C. -- Houseboating in this region has had a reputation as one big, boozy floating party. But for those of us past that all-night party-till-you drop stage, the Shuswap, located in south-central B.C., has more than enough watery playgrounds along its 1,100 kilometres of shoreline for summer vacationers looking for a more languid lake experience.
For sure, evidence of the wild side is easy to find, like the guy mooning us with beer in hand as we headed back after three days on the mild side. The partying had already started a week before the houseboating season ramped up ahead of the Canada Day long weekend.
But we got to see the other side of this summer-long tradition of puttering along in what is considered the "houseboating capital of Canada" with a host and a captain named Noah.
They showed us some of the 30-plus marine parks, and the more serene side of the Shuswap, two lakes with arms that seen on a map look like a lazily drawn letter "H."
Although there are often close to 200 houseboats on the lake at the height of summer, those in the know can point you to natural wonders on beautiful and all-but-deserted beaches.
Getting familiar with what would be our floating home for the next three days, I first spotted the hot tub. Then, I saw the triple-S slide attached to the back of our two-storey vessel with enough room for 10 to 12 people. It comes complete with three "staterooms," a full kitchen, including a granite island, two bathrooms, a living room, big-screen television and fireplace.
Although generous in size, our floating accommodation is not the largest of Waterway Houseboat's fleet. The company also rents the three-storey Legacy model, which can accommodate up to 30 people and includes such niceties as video conferencing for corporate retreats.
Though the forecast called for drizzle and grey skies, I was determined to make a splashdown through that slide -- but not before taking a steamy hot-tub soak and sidling up to the wet bar with the 36-inch television suspended above it.
As we glided along Mara Lake en route to Shuswap Lake, we settled into a relaxing routine: reading, sipping wine, listening to our captain's guitar-strumming and singing and enjoying the opportunity to pilot the boat from time to time.
Moving at a leisurely top speed of six km/h, gave us plenty of time to take in the gorgeous screen-saver-like views of the lake and to scan its meandering shoreline.
Our captain, Noah Sturdy, plies these waters regularly and grew up in the area. He says Waterway Houseboats steers its customers to the areas of the lake that would most suit the type of holiday they're after.
Want to party with like-minded houseboaters? Head towards Seymour Arm for Nielsen Beach near the Cinnemousun Narrows on the east side. Families looking for a quieter experience will be directed towards Anstey Arm.
From the bow of our boat, the Prairie Princess, the seemingly never-ending Shuswap Lake lay before us. The palette ranges from the deep green of the trees on shore in early summer to mauve-tinged hues near sunset. The shoreline is dotted with clusters of towering pines, rocky cliffs, hidden waterfalls, petroglyphs, coves and beaches and a sporadic collection of cabins and cottages, ranging from modest to magnificent. We spot eagles and osprey several times in a day.
In the coming weeks, this lake will become water-sport central, attracting water-skiers, jet-skiers, motorboaters, paddle-boarders, fishermen, cliff-jumpers and even divers taking advantage of the waters near regionally famous Copper Island.
Though our on-board fridge had been amply stocked with groceries from DeMille's, a favourite go-to market for locals and vacationers, plus a fine selection of wines from one of the seven local wineries, we're going to dock at the Hyde Mountain Golf Course for lunch, one of several championship courses in the region.
Boaters can chug up to the dock, as we did in our houseboat. A shuttle is there to take golfers -- or lunch patrons -- up the winding pathway to the clubhouse. We passed a foursome about to attempt one of the signature holes aptly called Geronimo. It's 425 metres and the tee box sits 80 metres above the Par-4 hole, overlooking Mara Lake.
We were anxious to get back to our home on the water, and then savour a little beach time with some wine around the fire, followed by a beach "sauna."
But first we were ready to experience an island feast, delivered to the boat by Bahama John, a jovial six-foot-eight Bahamian. With restaurants in Freeport, Grand Bahama, and Florida, the affable restaurateur recently opened Bahama John's Seafood and Rib Shack restaurant in Sicamous. Like several businesses in the area, John's also caters to houseboaters, delivering on 48 hours' notice.
Sated by Bahama John's delicious coconut rice and jerk chicken, we settle into Hungry Cove as our hideaway for the night. Noah points out this serene site will accommodate dozens of boats overnight in the coming weeks.
For now, we have the place to ourselves and we're treated to an impromptu steam bath. A couple of large rocks are getting hot in the roaring fire. As the sun sets and the temperature drops slightly, the rocks are placed on the beach beneath a large tented tarp and we pour lake water over them. A wall of steam envelops us, warming us up and inspiring some of us to dive into the lake to cool down.
Ahhhh, I'll take this over the 24-hour party circuit any time.
Here's a summer-long list of things to do in the Shuswap area. It includes either a three- or five-day houseboating trip, bookended by a list of other things on offer in the area.
There are two other houseboat companies in the area, Twin Anchors and Bluewater.
A company called MSO Tours also offers a collection of guided driving tours of the wineries in the region. www.mjotours.com/.
-- Postmedia News
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2013 E1